What is a Leopard Flower?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 10 January 2020
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Leopard flower is a common name for Iris domestica, a perennial ornamental plant that belongs to the Iridaceae family. These flowering herbs shoot from crawling rhizomes or bulbs that are embedded in the ground. Before 2005, the leopard flower was originally named Belamcanda chinensis, but eventually analysis of its biological makeup led to its absorption in the Iris genus. Other names for this flower are blackberry lily, dieffenbachia, and leopard lily. There are 260 known species in this genus.

The foliage of leopard flowers spreads in a fan-like manner. They are long, triangular, and light green in color with a maximum length of around 2 to 3 feet (0.6 to 0.9 m). Their summer-blooming flowers have six elongated petals that are bright pink or orange with red or violet spots. All-yellow specimens of leopard lilies can also be observed. Clusters of shiny black seed pods that look like blackberries emerge over the stamens after the flowers wither every month of September.

These flowering perennials grow only up to heights of 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm), which makes them usable as indoor ornamental plants; however, using them as accent plants in gardens is a more common choice of placement. A leopard flower also tends to cover vast areas, especially when in its natural setting. Hillsides in some regions of China and Japan have been seen fully covered by the brightly colored blossoms of these tender herbs.


The rhizomes and seeds of the leopard flower are also recognized for their uses in traditional medicine. Their underground stems are sometimes boiled or crushed to treat individuals affected with malaria and gonorrhea. Leopard flower seeds are also crushed and mixed with beverages or food as an alternative medicine for kidney problems, asthma, and sore throat.

Taking care of a leopard lily requires only minimal time and energy. Planting them in regular soil with partial to full exposure to sunlight is enough for the plant to grow and multiply rapidly. Watering it once a day and providing it with plant food once a year will sustain the plant’s nutritional needs. Spring serves as the leopard lily’s blooming season.

Some purple varieties of the plants in the Iris genus also exhibit the distinctive spots of leopard lilies, usually ranging from yellow to yellow-orange dots that run along the petal. Such species include Iris kemaonensis, Iris unguicularis, and Iris milesii. These species mostly grow in regions of China, most especially in the Himalayas. The majority of leopard flowers also grow in abundance in China.


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